What is your fear?
I realised today when I was asked to do a blog on HB Projects journey with mental health – that my fear of social media had to be overcome! Asking me to put my personal thoughts ‘out there’, would have, two years ago, started that little voice inside my head telling me I couldn’t do it and that I was making a big mistake. That is all behind me now since the commencement of mental health awareness campaign at HB Projects. It has allowed me to rid myself of negativism that had, unknowingly, become a habit. The voice of doom and gloom is now well and truly under control and through this blog I hope to share with you the barriers that we, at HB Projects, have and continue to push through.
Fear was also evident within the business two years ago, when in a Board meeting, I put forward the Health and Wellbeing strategy, which had a real focus on mental health. As Board members we had a fear of what ‘can of worms’ we would be opening up for ourselves, or how employees would perceive us should we be so open about our ‘feelings’. In construction we ‘get on with it’ and are ‘made of proper grit’, we don’t show our ‘feminine side’ or appear ‘soft’.
At the time the business was going through significant changes, the Board talked about how we were valuing the opportunity of having conversations with each other about our thoughts and feelings in a trusted and safe environment, which would also be beneficial and appreciated by employees to have this same environment. The Board was in no doubt that a commitment to reduce the stigma associated with mental ill health had to be made.
How have we engaged with employees?
- Supported Stop! Make a Change, a national safety and wellbeing in Construction initiative, with our Managing Director engaging with our teams to send a clear message that mental health and physical health will be treated the same;
- Inviting an ex-professional football player to talk about his lived experience with mental ill health;
- Invited a psychosexual therapist to talk to our people. Again ‘fear’ appeared when I received the presentation content from the therapist! How would it be perceived, could we really talk about sexual dysfunction and other sexual taboo words to the workforce? I was really proven to have been worrying about nothing, it was all relevant to mental ill health. In fact, some of the males left the workshop with a spring in their step and a Client’s H&S Advisor has asked for further details of the therapist – the ripple effect of engaging goes far wider than HB Projects employees;
- Participated in Mind’s Workplace Wellbeing Index – gained Silver Award from responses from employee and employer survey;
- Half yearly Health and Wellbeing newsletter which is produced by our internal teams and posted to all employee’s home addresses to arrive on a Saturday – with the intention that there will be time in the weekend to read and hoping friends and family will also gain knowledge and support;
- Supporting Andy’s Man Club with fundraising and awareness campaigns. AMC is an external organisation who provide a safe environment of support to men struggling with mental ill health;
- Employee case studies – helps show employees that ‘it’s OK’ and ‘it’s good to talk’. Mental ill health can be overcome;
- Donate to the charity Lighthouse Club – who can provide valuable support to individuals through their Construction Industry Helpline
- Ensure the advantages of our Employee Assistance Programme and how simple the health cash back scheme is known.
- 23 Mental Health First Aiders across the business (including all the Board members)
Engaging with employees has really opened up conversations within the business – some of which are very difficult to listen to. Within the business there are those that have a natural ability to listen and say the right thing, others have a fear of approaching someone to ask if they are ‘OK’ for fear of saying the wrong thing!
Watch out on Mental Health World day on Wednesday 10th October when we announce the next stage of our strategy.
To finish, should anybody have any fear of introducing conversations of mental health within the business …. ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ (Susan Jeffers)
Beverley Peace is our Group Compliance Director, with responsibility for our Compliance, Health & Safety, Training & Development and HR functions.